Guidelines for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at Burning Man

The Burning Man Council has announced guidelines for flying RC/UAV models at burning man, with emphasis on FPV vehicles.  The guidelines seem well thought out, and might be a good model for other organizations wishing to provide similar guidelines to participants.

http://blog.burningman.com/2013/08/news/guidelines-for-unmanned-aer...

http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/drones.html#.U...

(personal opinion) I expect we'll see more of this as quads get cheaper and easier to fly.  I was at the America's Cup races on Saturday and some nitwit was flying a gopro/phantom over the crowd. (end personal opinion)

The lovely video at top is from ExperimentalAirlines.

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Developer
Comment by Jason Short on August 19, 2013 at 9:57am

Flying over crowds is indeed asking for trouble. But flying over populated areas? I've always had a problem with this restriction. What exactly is a populated area? Are people that fly in their backyard over their neighbors houses violating this rule? Was Chris Miser (brilliantly) flying over Deer Trail Colorado violating this rule? 

Here are some cops flying over civilians:

http://www.diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/florida-keys-turns-to-uavs-...

Are we really worried about hurting someone or just the liability? I hear both on these forums. 

Jason

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on August 19, 2013 at 10:22am

Jason, this is a very contentious issue.  I do not like flying over populated areas, but I have admittedly broken this rule myself.  However, I try to minimize risk as much as possible.  It's a legal/liability issue, but it's also a moral issue.  Is it fair to knowingly put innocent people in jeopardy?  Is it reasonable that people should have to look up constantly for fear that a quad could fall on their head?

You've had two incidents which serve as good examples of what can happen when you do fly over people.  One incident resulted in an injury, which was only 1 inch away from becoming very severe.  On another occasion, you had a quad freefall from high altitude into a public park.  That could have been really bad too.  

The complete lack of safety controls at AVC were a big reason why I didn't fly my larger helicopter.  Even despite the (somewhat ridiculous) risk warnings at the event, I don't think it was safe, and I don't think it was fair to put the spectators at risk. 

From what I've seen, authorities have not started pressing charges of negligence in cases like these, but it's probably a just a matter of time until that starts happening, especially in the US.

I try to obey the MAAC flight regulations as much as possible, which both offers me insurance protection, as well as making the flights less risky in the first place.  


Developer
Comment by Jason Short on August 19, 2013 at 1:27pm
The first incident wasn't actually piloted by me. It shows how a noob can get himself into a dangerous position without realizing it. The second issue, as you know, will happen to everyone eventually. Everybody crashes, as they say. 
New pilots with RTF craft will take risks they don't understand and they will fly over populated areas. But what about pilots doing survey work over populated areas? What about working in one area and having a fly-away into another? It's not so clear cut.
Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on August 19, 2013 at 1:59pm

Yes, exactly.  And what is going to be at Burning Man?  A bunch of Newbs with Phantoms flying over people. It's probably going to be 10 times worse this year than last. Thus, the completely rational restriction on this.  

And yes, everybody crashes eventually (however, the MTBF for different people and machines is wildly varying).  So the only way to ensure it doesn't hit somebody, is to not fly over places where people might be outside.  Somewhere there is an acceptable risk number, so you'll have an equation similar to Risk = MTBF*PopulationDensity.  Unless you are sure your machine is very reliable, don't fly anywhere near people.

I think the way forward professional applications (survey work) will be to have parachutes, or, have very good figures on MTBF and calculate the risk tolerance.  This is what manned aviation does.  

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